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Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sugar plant accident highlights risks for temp workers

Factory work presents many risks for workers, depending on the setting and the type of work being done. Employers, of course, have the duty of ensuring their employees and temporary workers are adequately protected. As we frequently point out on this blog, though, employers don't always do this.

A recent accident at a sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, is an example of the serious consequences of safety failures on the part of an employer. An employee at the plant, according to investigators, had been buried alive in sugar after attempting to unclog a large hopper. Investigators pointed out that a manager at the plant had removed a safety device 13 days before the accident, which device would have prevented the employee's death had it been left on. 

The fact that the victim was a temp worker highlights another issue—the safety risks faced by temp workers on the job. Too often, temp workers are not adequately trained or given adequate protections. Companies that benefit from temp workers often do not have to provide workers’ compensation when those temp workers are injured.

An OSHA investigation of the sugar plant incident shows that the company responsible for operating the sugar plant failed to train temp workers at another plant in 2010. Other temp workers at the plant were also found to have not been adequately trained.

Temp workers need to understand their rights as workers, as well as what they are not entitled to. Some of these rights are federally based. As the United States Department of Labor points out on its website, temp workers are eligible to earn leave and unemployment compensation, and are covered by Social Security, but do not have many of the benefits of permanent employees. At the state level, temp workers may have the right, at least in some circumstances, to sue a company for failing to prevent injuries. Temp workers facing such circumstances should speak with an experienced attorney and have their case evaluated to determine the best avenue for compensation. 

Source: ProPublica, “Sugar Plant Removed Safety Device 13 Days before Worker’s Death,” Michael Grabell, July 6, 2014. 

 


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